I’ve had more than my fair share of ‘how to connect’ articles. Seriously. That said, connecting is crucial if you want your business to succeed – and the good news for YOU is that there are plenty of people out there who aren’t connecting at all. They think it’s strange because they don’t know you yet. Some are even scared to connect.
And that’s good for you. Check out today’s guest post from Marian (we recently connected) that shows you how you can take advantage of connecting when others won’t.
A few months ago, I was at an event organized by Digital Book World, an industry publication where I used to work. All attendees, of course, had their laptops out, and during a break the woman next to me said aloud, “Who is this woman and why is she asking to connect with me on LinkedIn?”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer, but I (as you’ll see) have very strong opinions on this topic and asked, “Do you guys have any shared connections? Are you in a similar group?”
“Yeah,” she responded. “We’re both in a publishing group. I don’t want to connect with her though. I have no idea who she is!”
“Why not? Aren’t you looking for a job?”
“So what if this woman turns out to be really interesting? What if you get to know her, and she has some contacts for you or knows about an open position?”
“Oh. That’s a good point.”
Yeah, I know. While the mystery woman trying to connect with my neighbor should have included a message with her invite explaining why she wanted to connect, it’s not smart to limit your networking, especially when you’re looking for a job or clients.
I covered a similar event a few months after that and wanted to connect with the speakers beforehand. I used LinkedIn and encountered the same problem: resistance from people too paranoid to make the online networking leap.
For each person I invited, I added a personal message explaining who I was and why I wanted to connect with them. Every person accepted my invitation. Except one. He was a pretty powerful publishing guy, and I’m sure he gets tons of invites every day. I understand the hesitation for “high profile” people, but the simple act of connecting is important. I don’t care who you are.
His response to my invitation confused me. He wrote, “I’m sure we’ll get to know each other and when we have, we’ll do this link. I have a longstanding policy of not linking to people I don’t actually know.”
His message was perfectly nice, and I realize it’s important to have policies in place that make you comfortable. That said… seriously? He ran a company that could always use publicity. Why limit yourself? Why turn down a potential relationship that could be mutually beneficial? Who cares if you haven’t met that person? That’s what networking is all about.
Make an Effort
Social media can be overwhelming, frustrating and time consuming. But if you’ve made the effort to be on Twitter and LinkedIn, you need to start really using them. Building a profile isn’t some magic pill you can take and suddenly have followers, clients and book deals. There’s nothing worse than a stagnant page.
Actually, that’s a lie. There’s nothing worse than a person who’s afraid to use methods like “open networking”. I hate to be snippy or unsympathetic (sorry, that’s a lie too), but what’s the downside? You get some spam? Delete it. You end up not liking that person you follow/connect with/friend?
Unfollow/unconnect/unfriend them. That’s why it’s called networking – it takes some work.
If you’re wondering how you can network better or why your social media profiles aren’t bringing in leads, take a look at how you’re using them. Are your profiles private? Are you too picky about who you connect with? To that I say, get over it.
Who is your ideal client? Find them, connect with them. Does anyone you already know have connections to your ideal person or company? Get in touch with them and offer a favor in exchange for an introduction. It’s all about reaching out and making things happen.
3 Smart Steps to Generating More Leads
- Accept all invitations. Before you start whining that someone’s going to murder you in your sleep, cut it out. If you’re worried about people emailing all the time, create a separate account. Don’t publicize your phone number and address. But remember that connecting with everyone is the most powerful step.
- Go through your email contacts and add them as connections. We often forget that those we interact with daily – friends, clients, family – are our best referrals. This is an incredibly simple way to remind people what we do. Having friends as LinkedIn contacts – where they can see exactly what we do without shoving it down their throat – is priceless. And doing this is easy. On LinkedIn, just go to “Contacts” then “Add Connections.” If you’re with Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL, just enter your email information and LinkedIn does the work for you.
- Send personal messages. Answer questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn. Join groups. Engage people in conversation, and then send them a personal message offering your help. For example, if you’re a web designer, answer basic design questions and message people asking if they need any help. Even if they don’t, invite them to officially connect with you. Stay in touch. Who knows, they may not have work for you, but they might know someone who does. The more real relationships you make, the more potential for new clients.
I do this about once a month, and every time I generate at least 20 new contacts, around two of whom will get in touch about a new project. Surprisingly, one of my greatest sources of new clients is my aunt.
Stop Limiting Yourself
The amazing thing about social networking is that you aren’t confined by geography. I’ve connected with people in Austria and California and New Zealand, even when based in New York. That’s what confused me about this publishing guy’s response to my LinkedIn request. He wouldn’t connect until we knew each other in real life, but the beauty of the internet is that you can have a rewarding relationship with someone and never meet.
You have to think of it this way: Would you go to an in-person networking event and refuse to give out your card because you didn’t know someone personally? Of course not. Treat social networking the same way. Many times a connection doesn’t work out. Many times you’re disappointed. Then throw the “card” away. But it’s not about many times, is it? It’s about those one or two people who become your clients, your friends, your partners and your greatest source of referrals.
So feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn – I’d love to get to know you better, whoever you are. Really.
Marian Schembari is a social media thug who helps authors sell boatloads of books. She also blogs over at MarianLibrarian where she mixes the personal and the professional, highlighting how freelancers and entrepreneurs can use social media to explode business, bring in floods of clients and generally have more fun. Check out her Personalized Twitter Strategy if you’re looking for BS-free and practical Twitter tactics.